2
   

Hey buddy, can you spare some morality?

 
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 09:18 am
joefromchicago wrote:
dlowan wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
dlowan wrote:
However, the people who DO work effectively with Ragses here strongly advocate assisting them with sleeping, eating and food when they wish - and making rehab available - but respecting their decisions as to whether they take them up or not. Interestingly, that is where government policy in my state is going re homeless folk - similarly to harm minimization strategies re drugs.

I suppose they take the same approach with people who suffer from all other potentially fatal diseases?

Well, they do not chase people down the street with medicines and lifestyle changes, but these are offered to them - pretty much how homelessness and alcoholism is treated, yes. What are you saying should be their approach? What is you rpoint? (Even if we accept the "disease model" for alcoholism.)

My point is that you are supporting a treatment model for alcoholism that, it seems, does not apply to other types of diseases that involve mental impairment. For instance, suppose that a person has Alzheimer's Disease.* Would you also say that we should make treatment available to him but respect his decision as to whether he takes it or not?

Even if we don't accept the "disease model" for alcoholism, we can, I think, recognize that alcohol is physically addictive. And for alcoholics, both the physical and psychological need for alcohol as well as its stupifying effects can seriously affect their judgment. Given that fact, it's a bit unusual to respect the judgment of alcoholics when we don't respect, in the same sense, the judgments of Alzheimer's patients, or those suffering from dementia, or children, or people who are otherwise impaired. In effect, you've set up two standards: one for alcoholics (whose judgment we respect) and one for all other persons suffering from diseases or other conditions that make their judgment unreliable or defective (whose judgment we don't respect). So why do we give alcoholics special consideration?

*EDIT: just to be clear, I'm talking about late-stage Alzheimer's, where the patient is no longer mentally competent.


I don't give alcoholics special treatment.

For them to be mentally impaired to the point that, for instance, it would be legally possible to intervene whether they liked it or not, their impairment would have to be quite extreme. Alcoholism alone would not cut it. A consequence of alcoholism - such as Korsakov's (a form of dementia associated with alcoholism) might, if it was very advanced, allow for such intervention.

The actual limits for such forced intervention are quite high - ie they impairment has to be great, the activities of the person has to present a high risk to themselves or others.

Until such limits are clearly passed (or in the case of highly infectious diseases, where there is severe public risk) people's decisions have to be respected - legally, for instance, speaking.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 09:25 am
nimh wrote:
May I ask you, Joe, what moved you to bring up this subject?

If you read my dialog with dlowan I think you'd get a sense of why I brought this up. But I don't want to get involved in a discussion of involuntary treatment of alcoholics (although my remarks may have invited such a discussion): it's an interesting topic, and I'd be willing to join in a discussion of the issue on a new thread, but it is largely tangential to the present inquiry.

To tie my remarks briefly to the theme of this discussion: there have been a few comments here asserting, in effect, that Rich has no responsibility beyond the donation -- in other words, that once Rich give Rags the dollar, Rags has the option to do with it what he will and Rich is free of any further responsibility. Yet if we recognize that alcoholism can impair judgment, then why would anyone feel justified in "respecting" Rags's judgment in connection with the dollar? If, for instance, Rags were suffering from dementia, we wouldn't say: "Rich can offer Rags treatment, but what Rags does with his treatment is entirely up to him."

It's not so much a question of Rags's responsibility -- the hypothetical, remember, does not inquire into the morality or immorality of his actions. Rather, it is a question of Rich's responsibility. By giving his dollar to someone who, he can confidently predict, will use the money to perpetuate a potentially fatal condition (in this case, alcoholism), can Rich absolve himself of responsibility for that consequence by noting that what Rags does with the dollar is entirely up to him?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 09:35 am
Thomas wrote:
1) I have met alcoholics in my life, and I have met old demented people, though none of them were Alzheimer's patients. There is a world of difference between the judgment of alcoholics and that of demented people. Most alcoholics don't have their judgment impaired to a degree even remotely comparable to dementia. I think you greatly overestimate the importance of this special case for the decision to give or not to give a beggar money.

See my response to nimh, above.

Thomas wrote:
2) The argument from incompetence, insanity and dementia always cuts both ways. Sure, the beggar could be afflicted by either or all of them. But so could I! I could be withholding the money because I'm too dense to see the beggar's need for help, or because I'm a compulsive scrooge, or because I'm too demented to reach for my wallet. In either case, the beggar could use your argument, Joe, to justifiy not just begging me but robbing me. That strikes me as pretty radical. Do you have enough confidence in your argument to follow it to this conclusion?

I have enough confidence in my argument to follow it to its conclusion. I just don't think my argument is anything like the one you characterize.

To accept your comparison, one would have to contend that withholding money and assault are roughly comparable acts. Thus Rich withholds his donation from Rags because he believes Rags to be mentally incompetent, while Rags assaults Rich because he believes Rich to be mentally incompetent. Yet I think there is a rather significant difference between the two acts, and I don't think it's necessary to engage in a long, philosophical argument to determine exactly where the difference lies.

Thomas wrote:
I don't. I think the best default assumption for the case is that both sides are grown-up people who know what they're doing.

You'd apply that same standard to all grown-ups in all voluntary transactions?
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 09:37 am
Interesting discussion.

This morning, one of the local homeless fellas approached me for money. I (as I always do) ask what for. Food, he says. Fine, I'll buy you something. No, he wanted the money. I told him it was my money, and it was my choice on whether I was willing to give him cash, and my choice was no. If he wanted food, fine - danish or muffin (he'd accosted me, after being turned away by many other folks, in the line at the nearest donut shop). He finally decided he wanted a Fruit Explosion muffin. After I'd reassured the shop manager that I was fine, and really wanted to buy the fella a muffin, he got his muffin and we parted company amicably.

If he'd told me straight out that he wanted the money for booze, I'd have given him cash (25% of what I'd pay for his food nearest to where I'm approached).

Too judgmental? Too bossy? Moral? Immoral?
My cash, my rules.
0 Replies
 
CerealKiller
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 09:40 am
joefromchicago wrote:


Yet there is certainly an argument to be made that Rich's action is immoral (as opposed to being merely bad for local businesses) to the extent that his action contributes to Rags's condition. After all, Rags is not simply getting a drink, he's an alcoholic beggar. I think we can safely say that, all things being equal, it is better not to be an alcoholic beggar than to be one. And if Rich's donation permits Rags to remain in his degraded condition, is that donation truly moral?


If we know (and we almost certainly do here) that Rags will be worse off without the donation, I'd venture that by most conventional measures of morality, it is a moral act.

joefromchicago wrote:

Look at it this way: if a suicidally despondent friend came up to you and asked to borrow your .45 caliber pistol -- and one bullet -- for a short while, would your act of lending him the weapon be beyond moral reproach, even if you had a strong suspicion that your friend would use the weapon to kill himself? Would you have no responsibility once you handed the weapon over to your friend, on the argument that "it's your gun and his life?"


In this case you are offering this friend not a means by which to maintain his/her status quo (as in the Rags/Richs scenario) but release - from his/her point of view - from suffering in life, or the ultimate punishment one could inflict on oneself - death. Whether or not it is a moral act would depend upon whose morals we're judging this by.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 09:45 am
I belive Our Illinois Friend has specified that it is the judgment of the relative morality of Rich's actions which is in question here.
0 Replies
 
CerealKiller
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 09:56 am
Setanta wrote:
I belive Our Illinois Friend has specified that it is the judgment of the relative morality of Rich's actions which is in question here.


Not in his second example of lending a friend a gun.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 10:11 am
Well, he did write this:

Quote:
It's not so much a question of Rags's responsibility -- the hypothetical, remember, does not inquire into the morality or immorality of his actions. Rather, it is a question of Rich's responsibility. By giving his dollar to someone who, he can confidently predict, will use the money to perpetuate a potentially fatal condition (in this case, alcoholism), can Rich absolve himself of responsibility for that consequence by noting that what Rags does with the dollar is entirely up to him?
0 Replies
 
shepaints
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 10:47 am
For most of us, it's a split second decision whether
or not to give. Few of us would take the time to
interview the recipient , so it's really a case of
judging a book by its cover.
0 Replies
 
Piffka
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 10:54 am
ehBeth wrote:
If he'd told me straight out that he wanted the money for booze, I'd have given him cash (25% of what I'd pay for his food nearest to where I'm approached).

Too judgmental? Too bossy? Moral? Immoral?
My cash, my rules.


It's a cool rule, Beth. Heading towards a $1 donut, if he said food, you'd give him a dollar and if he said booze, a quarter? <heehee> Works for me. But if you were headed to a $10 dinner, you would give one person $10? What if you saw you were going to be asked more than once?

I admit, I pick and choose... I can't help everyone. I frequently keep some change for street people in my coat pocket when I'm in the city, especially if I'm headed towards the Pike Place Market and there will be street musicians.

I love street musicians and entertainers.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 11:28 am
The last time i got hit up for money in Columbus, the joker demanded that i give him two dollars. I told him he could . . . spit . . . in one hand and beg with the other, to see which filled up first. But, out of couriosity, i asked him why he was demanding two dollars. He said you can't buy . . . spit . . . with a dollar these days. Refreshing candor, but badly in need of a shower . . .
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 01:04 pm
Shepaints, a good dose of realism:
"For most of us, it's a split second decision whether
or not to give. Few of us would take the time to
interview the recipient , so it's really a case of
judging a book by its cover."

I tend to respond to beggars within a matter of seconds; I never take time to interview them. And I don't many people do. My "decision" therefore is an emotional one, more an expression of personality than of ethical or moral deliberation.

Regardless of his intentions, Joe's question nudges us to examine our sharing behaviors "moralogically", which means after-the-fact. Nothing wrong with that in that such an examination may affect our future "decisions." But they will very unlikely contradict or conflict with our personality predispositions, but they might modify them.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 08:03 pm
CerealKiller wrote:
If we know (and we almost certainly do here) that Rags will be worse off without the donation, I'd venture that by most conventional measures of morality, it is a moral act.

We most certainly do not know that Rags will be worse off without the donation. All we can surmise is that, without Rich's dollar, Rags will be one dollar poorer. But then if Rags used Rich's dollar to make himself worse (as one could argue he would do by buying more alcohol), then he is better off not receiving the donation.

CerealKiller wrote:
In this case you are offering this friend not a means by which to maintain his/her status quo (as in the Rags/Richs scenario) but release - from his/her point of view - from suffering in life, or the ultimate punishment one could inflict on oneself - death. Whether or not it is a moral act would depend upon whose morals we're judging this by.

Well, that last statement is correct. But then that is pretty much the premise of this entire exercise, so it doesn't really answer the question. According to your morals, what is the right thing to do?
0 Replies
 
shepaints
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Aug, 2004 09:10 pm
I like that word "moralogically" JL. Ironically, when I was trying to do good by making a mail donation to a charity, I felt "fleeced" (and morally outraged) when my gesture got my name and address on a list.....which resulted in my being pestered tirelessly by many other charities.
grrrr......I learnt not to do that again!

I notice that the discussion seems to revolve the transaction between two people. What about the scenario when you walk down a street and collide with many homeless?
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 02:53 am
joefromchicago wrote:
To accept your comparison, one would have to contend that withholding money and assault are roughly comparable acts. Thus Rich withholds his donation from Rags because he believes Rags to be mentally incompetent, while Rags assaults Rich because he believes Rich to be mentally incompetent.

... and that he would give Rags money if only he were mentally competent, knew the relevant information, and wasn't an insufferable scrooge. The welfare state engages in comparable behavior all the time on behalf of the nation's beggars. It's called "taxation", and few people dispute its moral legitimacy.

joefromchicago wrote:
Thomas wrote:
I don't. I think the best default assumption for the case is that both sides are grown-up people who know what they're doing.

You'd apply that same standard to all grown-ups in all voluntary transactions?

Yes. I know this assumption is mistaken. But in your hypothetical, as in most cases in practice, I lack information to tell which way it is mistaken, so the best rule I can act on is to assume sanity and goodwill on each side of the transaction.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 08:35 am
Thomas wrote:
... and that he would give Rags money if only he were mentally competent, knew the relevant information, and wasn't an insufferable scrooge. The welfare state engages in comparable behavior all the time on behalf of the nation's beggars. It's called "taxation", and few people dispute its moral legitimacy.

We're judging Rich's actions here. We can address the morality of the state's actions on another occasion.

joefromchicago wrote:
Yes. I know this assumption is mistaken. But in your hypothetical, as in most cases in practice, I lack information to tell which way it is mistaken, so the best rule I can act on is to assume sanity and goodwill on each side of the transaction.

This is a fair rule for those situations where there is no relevant information regarding the actors. But the hypothetical posits that Rich has information to tell him whether Rags is to be trusted with the donation. Perhaps not conclusive information, but certainly sufficient information to form a reasonably reliable conclusion regarding Rags's mental state.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 09:01 am
joefromchicago wrote:
We're judging Rich's actions here. We can address the morality of the state's actions on another occasion.

Fair enough, and I wasn't planning to do so in the context of this thread. I was just trying to point out why I think the situation is more symmetrical than you think regarding the argument from incompetence, insanity, et cetera. If incompetence is potentially an issue, it is an issue on both sides of the transaction, not just Mr. Rags's side. Just because I can't see my own insanity, it doesn't follow I'm perfectly sane.

joefromchicago wrote:
Thomas wrote:
Yes. I know this assumption is mistaken. But in your hypothetical, as in most cases in practice, I lack information to tell which way it is mistaken, so the best rule I can act on is to assume sanity and goodwill on each side of the transaction.

This is a fair rule for those situations where there is no relevant information regarding the actors. But the hypothetical posits that Rich has information to tell him whether Rags is to be trusted with the donation. Perhaps not conclusive information, but certainly sufficient information to form a reasonably reliable conclusion regarding Rags's mental state.

In this hypothetical case, it may well be morally justified to withhold money from Mr. Rags. But this concession is purely academical, since the story now has little to do with the cases I have seen in real life anymore. In reality, I don't think I can reliably judge beggars based on their appearance. I suspect that you greatly overestimate your own judgment when you imply that you can. Therefore I prefer to act as if beggars are people like you and me, only with less money -- which they probably are.
0 Replies
 
CerealKiller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 02:21 pm
Well, that last statement is correct. But then that is pretty much the premise of this entire exercise, so it doesn't really answer the question. According to your morals, what is the right thing to do?[/quote]

Well according to my morals it would be wrong/immoral to give a suicidal friend a gun for the purpose of blowing their brains out. But that's just me.

The reason I say that is I don't see how me giving someone a gun helps or benefits them. Then again, that is just me and how I would measure my morality.
0 Replies
 
shepaints
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 03:29 pm
True Cereal. Still,however well-intentioned, isn't making a food choice for the beggar rather paternalistic, treating him or her
much as one would a child?
0 Replies
 
CerealKiller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 03:48 pm
shepaints wrote:
True Cereal. Still,however well-intentioned, isn't making a food choice for the beggar rather paternalistic, treating him or her
much as one would a child?


I suppose that could be considered a paternalistic act, now eat all your vegetables or you won't get any beer money. Very Happy

My guess is we can really only help those people who want to help themselves. I've come to the conclusion that no amount of money,food,tough love,or other provisions will help someone who is hellbent on self-destruction.
0 Replies
 
 

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